Come the first rays of autumn and you can feel something different in the air. A deep pulsating energy courses through the veins of Kolkata at this time – making itself heard in the sounds of the dhak and the joyous treble of shoppers. And making itself seen in the bamboo skeletons of pandals yet to finish.

It’s infectious.

But it isn’t just the devotion to the goddess that rouses this state of frenzy. Durga Puja as a festival has always been more than merely a religious affair, more than a celebration of divinity. In fact, it wouldn’t be a tall assumption to call it a celebration of life in all its forms.

History and lore: how Durga Puja became more than a religious festival

One of the earliest records of Durga Puja goes back to the 16th century, with Smarta scholar Raghunandan quite interestingly referring to the festival as Durgotsav. Thus, establishing it as a festival that’s large in scale with a spirit of exhibitionism at its core.

Fast forward to the 17th century, and you’ll find accounts of wealthy traders and landlords ogranising grand Durga Puja celebrations in their villages with much hype and fanfare around them. These lords and ladies also hosted elaborate feasts for the residents of their villages, encompassing social and cultural barriers to make it a more universal celebration.

In the 18th century, when the British established their sway in the country and made Calcutta their headquarters, the landed gentry too shifted their celebrations to their newly made rajbaris of the city. Overtime, they started hosting lavish Pujas in their palatial homes, inviting the who’s who of the East India Company. This opened the doors of Durga Puja celebrations to more and more people, making it more of a cultural occasion than a religious one.

Durga Puja in modern times

As the fervour of the festivities caught on, the celebration of Durga Puja started assuming a larger scale, finding itself a spot in every nook and cranny. But it’s only in the 20th century when the festival donned an artistic hat, infusing themes into the decorations of the pandal.

From the 1930s onwards, artistic elements could be found in the idol. The same were incorporated into the pandals somewhere around the 1950s and 60s, giving the whole festival a carnivalesque feel – where everyone could participate – a sentiment further escalated by the barowari puja.

Community pujas added a socio-cultural dimension to the festival, with residents of a locality coming together to organise the puja with rounds of events and competitions, including singing, dancing and more.

Since then, Durga Puja has further evolved. Each year Puja organisers plan a theme around the pandal – touching upon one socio-cultural topic or the other to give out a message and strike a deep chord with revellers. Needless to say, people from all around the world actively participate in this sensory feast, soaking up the joys and teachings of the season.

A true celebration of life

Having earned the prestigious status of UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage, Durga Puja now is a grand five-day long spectacle spanning all castes, genders, creed and religions – uniting everyone in the spirit of revelry and appreciation for all things beautiful.

It is the only time when the city moves as one, walking miles and miles on foot to enamour at the goddess and the temporary abode that homes her and her kids. When people throng the streets to feast together; holding quintessential adda sessions to relive old days and make memories of new ones. To reiterate, it truly is a celebration of life.

Feel the togetherness of festivities all year round with Isha Group

Miss that festive feeling once the season is gone? Make your life an everyday celebration with an Isha Group home! We have apartments near Phoolbaganflats near Sealdah and flats in South Kolkata for you to choose from. All our homes are loaded with amenities and are conveniently located so nothing is ever too far from you. Embrace your wonderful life this festive season with us!

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